Ursuline Sisters of Louisville  
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Sister Shirley Ann Simmons
75 years -- 1942
Current Ministry: Prayer and presence at Sacred Heart Home

Previous Ministries: Principal at St. Patrick (Sidney, NE), St. Luke (Ogallala, NE). Teacher at McDaid Elementary (North Platte, NE), St. Luke (Ogallala, NE). Teacher at St. Boniface, Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Elizabeth (Louisville, KY); SS. Peter and Paul and St. Mary (Cumberland, MD); Blessed Sacrament (Omaha, NE); Pastoral Minister at St. Luke Parish (Ogallala, NE).

It was 1942. A first class stamp cost three cents. “Casablanca” hit movie theaters. Bing Crosby released his version of “White Christmas” and Sister Shirley Ann Simmons joined the Ursuline Community.

Seventy-five years later, Sister Shirley Ann says she doesn’t recall seeing “Casablanca”, but she sure knows “White Christmas,” and she still loves listening to music.

Born in Hartwell, Nebraska, Sister Shirley Ann was the oldest of four; she had two brothers and a sister. Her father was a farmer and her mother taught school. Education was important in their household, so the oldest daughter was sent to board with a Catholic family in North Platte in order to attend a Catholic high school. Sister Shirley Ann helped with the host family’s two children, getting them to and from school.

Sister was 17 when she decided to join the convent. Then she received a four-year scholarship to attend Ursuline College in Louisville, Kentucky. Sister Shirley Ann said she never would have ventured so far from home without that scholarship. She missed her parents and siblings, but soon gained a new family in the Ursuline community. “I guess God just put the wish there,” she said. “I admired all the nuns; all the ones I had as teachers.” When Shirley Ann entered the Novitiate, she was given the name, Sister Joanella; she returned to her baptismal name when this was a choice in the 1960s.

Over the years, Sister Shirley Ann has travelled through many classrooms and served as principal at two Nebraska schools: St. Patrick in Sidney, and St. Luke in Ogallala. In 1999, she left teaching behind and began work as pastoral minister at St. Luke Parish in Ogallala, Nebraska, serving the Catholic community there until 2005.

Her own education included a Bachelor of Arts degree from Ursuline College in 1957; Master of Arts, Creighton University, 1962; and summer classes at University of Notre Dame, College of St. Mary (Leavenworth, KS), and University of Montana (Missoula). “I liked every place I was,” she said. “I taught most of the grades. I really preferred teaching middle grades, but I taught whatever they gave me! I really enjoyed my classes and I had some big classes. I enjoyed my teaching career.”

Today Sister Shirley Ann lives at Sacred Heart Home in Louisville. Her tidy room contains a book shelf with her favorite books, many of them Ursuline prayer books. “I read and I pray,” she said. “I like the Ursuline prayers. I like music, too. I just don’t like the wild stuff!” she said with a laugh. When asked about being an Ursuline for 75 years, she paused. “It sounds like a long time, but when I stop and think of it, it doesn’t seem like it’s that long,” she said. “I’ve basically had good years all along.”

Sister Antonine Biven
70 years -- 1947
Current Ministry: Apostolate of Prayer

Previous Ministries: Music Teacher at St. Francis of Assisi, St. Helen, Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Therese, Sacred Heart Model School, St. Raphael (all of Louisville, KY), Ursuline Academy (Columbia, SC), St. Mary (Jackson, MS). Music Director/Organist at St. Raphael, Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Helen, Ursuline Motherhouse ( all of Louisville). Director of Religious Education at St. Mary Parish (Maryville, KY). Councilor for Ursuline Sisters, Volunteer at Project Women and Marian Home (both of Louisville).

There is no calculating hours at the keyboard or how often she struck up the band, Sister Antonine Biven has spent her life making music. She chuckled about almost joining a jazz band before she went to the convent and how she learned to play everything from violin to saxophone. The time she wore a full habit while practicing trombone – whose slide knocked off her bonnet – made her laugh aloud.

“I always wanted to be a nun,” she said, smiling. “I used to go to early mass with my mother and we would pass the convent, and I wondered what those people did up there. I thought they took off that habit and stacked it in the corner. I didn’t know they were in parts! I think my time with my mother and our going to mass every morning kept that vocation alive in me.”

Childhood memories include the 1937 flood, when her family lost everything. “We moved in with my oldest brother who had been married only 12 days. He said his marriage was never the same!” she laughed. “My sister and I slept in a broom closet.”

They recovered from the flood, and she started piano lessons. “Lessons cost a quarter each. Eventually, mom saved enough for me to take lessons from the sisters for fifty cents!”
When was her music career truly born?
• When her father bought a $15 piano on payments.
• When high school classmates pooled money to rent the Memorial Auditorium so she could have a senior recital there.
• When the Ursulines provided an education that led her to teach.

”It was very difficult for my dad when I went to the convent. I remember his picking me up off the ground when I was put into the habit, to tell me goodbye. He hugged me SO tight.”

After her undergraduate degree in music from Ursuline College came a Master’s Degree from Notre Dame. She put her education to work in Kentucky, South Carolina and Mississippi for 24 years as a private instructor, band leader, parish music director, and church organist.

She hit a couple of sour notes along the way: a period when she was not permitted to teach secular music, and the day a priest who did not want a school band at his parish told her to “keep the noise down.” She can laugh about it now.

When she heard another calling, she earned a Master’s from Loyola University in New Orleans and spent 11 years as Director of Religious Education, Pastoral Associate and Music Minister at St. Mary’s parish in Bullitt County, Kentucky. “St. Mary’s was wonderful. They taught me more than I taught them. In addition to religious education, we visited the sick, and people came to us for advice on all sorts of things.”

She served in Leadership three times and twice accepted music ministries at parishes that underwent church renovation. “It was very difficult because we had to fix up the gym at St. Helen’s for weekend mass. Then I was honored to be invited to Our Lady of Lourdes and was very involved in that renovation.”

Sister Antonine sat at the keyboard for mass until health issues slowed her down. She began volunteer ministry at Marian Home. Today, friends call her a prayer warrior.

“I would like to thank the Ursuline Community for giving me an excellent education.” She is delighted to know her music plays on. “I met a former student on the street and he hummed the warm-up exercise we used to do in class.”

Sister Lorraine Maginot
70 years -- 1947
Current Ministry: Prayer and presence at the Ursuline Motherhouse

Previous Ministries: Teacher at St. Joseph, St. Rita, Our Lady of Lourdes, Sacred Heart Model School, St. Clement, Most Blessed Sacrament (all of Louisville, KY), St. Patrick (Sydney, NE), St. Mary (Cumberland, MD), Sacred Heart (Camden, MS), St. Agatha (Columbus, OH). Principal at St. Mary (Cumberland). Secretary at Office of Communication. Volunteer ministry at Ursuline Motherhouse and craft shop (Louisville) and Ursuline Convent (Iowa City, IA). Sacristan for Sacred Heart Model School. Ministry to family member. Tutor.

Born on Christmas, many pitied her for not having her “own” day, but Sister Lorraine Maginot has considered it a privilege to celebrate Christ’s birth on her special day each year. Her reverent outlook and happy disposition seem innate. Born in Calumet City, Illinois, Sister Lorraine had plenty of playmates with six brothers and three sisters. There was love, joy, and heartache. The household was quarantined with diphtheria, forcing her father to stay with neighbors so he could continue to work. Her younger sister did not recover, and died at age 20 months. “Little Alma lay in a coffin in the sun room,” she recalled. “My father could not even come in.”

A deep-seated spiritual life carried the family through those dark days. Sister Lorraine explained being first inspired to religious life. “My older sister took me to school when I was real little to meet the Sisters. That was it! I always enjoyed the Sisters.”

“We went to St. Victor’s School. It was a mile away and we had to walk,” she said. “In the winter, there was a lot of snow. Dad would lead us by making a path, and then he went off to work. Sometimes, when the weather was good, we’d come home for lunch and I would stop by the church to make a little visit.”

Taught by Sisters of Notre Dame in grade school, then Sisters of the Holy Cross in high school, Sister Lorraine’s family connection brought her to the Ursulines.

“I was in sixth grade when we got a car,” she recalled. “Mom had two sisters in the Ursuline Community, so we visited. We were sitting in the yard outside the Motherhouse and mom told them that I was thinking of going to the convent. Sister Josephine said, ‘She should come to us!’ God was guiding me. My aunts were happy that I came!” She was given the name, Sr. Juanita when she entered the Novitiate, then returned to her baptismal name in the 1960s.

Her happiest years were spent teaching, even if her first assignment came as a shock. “I got my obedience for St. Joseph’s and it said fifth grade and I almost died!” she laughed. “I was scared that first year because I did all my student teaching with the little ones. I made it through okay; the kids were nice.”

She believes she was born to be a teacher. “Even when I was growing up with three younger brothers, we would play school and I was the teacher,” she said. “I loved teaching, especially the little ones.”

Her teacher career zig-zagged cross-country: Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Ohio, Iowa, and by slow-moving train to a boarding school in Nebraska. Her least-favorite obedience: one year as a principal. Through it all, she kept her sense of humor and a deep well of compassion, even volunteering to take on seventh grade from a Sister who was in tears over that assignment. “I just felt so sorry for her!”

Sr. Lorraine was excused from teaching temporarily in the 1990s to care for her older sister who was ill. She felt blessed to help. Her ministries also have included sacristan, tutor, housekeeper, secretary, craft shop contributor, and assistant with chapel renovation at Sacred Heart Academy.

“Religious life was my life. From first grade on, I always wanted to be a Sister. You know life; you have your ups and downs,” she said with a smile. “It’s not going to be perfect, but that’s anybody. My community helped me through and I am very grateful and thankful for each day and each Mass at the Motherhouse.”
Sister Bernadine Nash
70 years -- 1947
Current Ministry: Prayer and presence at Sacred Heart Home

Previous Ministries: Principal at St. George, St Vincent de Paul, Our Mother of Sorrows (Louisville, KY), Blessed Sacrament (Omaha, NE), St. Philip (Mt. Vernon, IN). Teacher at St. George, Holy Spirit, St. Peter, St. Boniface, St. Raphael, St. Clement, Sacred Heart Model School (Louisville), St Patrick (North Platte, NE). Coordinator at Ursuline Motherhouse, Volunteer ministry at Jewish Hospital, Marian Home, Suburban Medical Center, Red Cross, Pine Tree Villa, Elderserve (Louisville).

Sister Bernadine Nash has a quick smile, a sparkle in her eye, and a penchant for storytelling. Perhaps it is her Irish roots, as her parents were born in Ireland. “I had a priest ask me why I joined this German community of Ursulines,” she laughed. “They were the ones who taught me, so I never considered joining any order BUT the Ursulines!” When she made her vows, she took her father’s name, Emmett. Today, she uses her baptismal name, Bernadine.

Born in 1925 in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, Sister Bernadine was the oldest of 11 children, including eight brothers. Her parents valued Catholic education. Her own education was once interrupted by the birth of a sibling. She returned home to help and eventually earned her degree, combining credits from Creighton University with those from Ursuline College. Let us back up a bit! Sister Bernadine’s first calling was not to the convent. She worked as a nurse’s aide at St. Joseph Infirmary in Louisville starting in 1942. Later, she was a long distance operator and supervisor for American Telephone & Telegraph in Louisville. While working for the phone company, she heard the “real” call - came to join the Ursulines.

“I was older when I entered. I went to my parish priest with a check to have a Mass said for me because I was going to the convent. He told me he would take the money for a Mass and that he would offer a second Mass for my perseverance. Well, here I am, at 92!”

Sister Bernadine’s roles as teacher and principal spanned more than thirty years and touched countless lives. She traversed schools in Kentucky, Indiana and Nebraska. Those seven years in Nebraska are dear to her, as seen in photos on display in her room at Sacred Heart Home. One black and white image shows four young boys she trained to be altar servers at St. Patrick’s. Alongside is Sister Bernadine, wearing a small smile and her traditional habit. “That serge was 100% wool and sometimes I would roast,” she laughed. “Of course, the kids obeyed us because we had all that gear on!”

“When I got in the convent and was with the children all the time, they kept me young. I really loved the children. I also liked math. One time another nun and I traded so that I took her math classes and she took my English classes.”

“Recently, I was at a funeral for a priest and a gentleman came up to me and asked, ‘Are you Sister Emmett?’” she recalled. After she explained her name change, he continued, “Oh, Sister,” he said, “You were the best teacher I ever had. May I hug you?” “Sure, go ahead!” she replied with a laugh. This student was from her very first year in the classroom at Holy Spirit, 67 years earlier. Sister Bernadine continued her education with graduate courses and workshops on a wide range of topics, from psychology and pastoral ministry to social ethics and data processing. When she closed the books on teaching, it was the birth of a new string of ministries, including coordinator at the Motherhouse, volunteer chaplain at Jewish Hospital, volunteer work at the Marian Home, and Elderserve, where she made welfare calls to shut-ins.

Today Sister Bernadine enjoys the daily newspaper, puzzles, and time for prayer. Asked what she thinks Saint Angela would tell her on this 70th Jubilee, she replied, “She’ll be waiting there for us. She will say, ‘Come on, girl!’”

Sister Raymunda Orth
70 years -- 1947
Current Ministry: Prayer and presence at Sacred Heart Home

Previous Ministries: Teacher at St. George, St. Ann, St. Raphael, St. Elizabeth, St. Leo, St. Peter Claver, Ursuline Special Education Center (all of Louisville, KY), St. Mary (Madison, IN), West Side Catholic Consolidated Schools (Evansville, IN), St. Clement School and Ursuline-Pitt School (both of Louisville). Principal at St. Boniface Junior High School (Evansville, IN). Assistant Director of Finance for Ursuline Sisters, Assistant Principal/Dean of Students at Pitt Academy. Substitute Teacher at UCDC/Montessori, Administrative Assistant at Angela Merici Center for Spirituality, Ursuline Campus Mail Room. Organist at Ursuline Motherhouse Chapel and Sacred Heart Home (all of Louisville)

“Music is praying TWICE,” Sister Raymunda Orth exclaimed. “I like to pray and I like to play!”
One look at the thick binder of organ music atop her desk and you take note.

Sister Raymunda started at the keyboard in third grade, after she raised her hand when asked if she would like to take music lessons. A moment later she regretted that move, as there was no piano at home and no money for lessons.“ We were poor, but we had what we needed and we were loved,” she said. “Daddy was a milkman for 45 years. They had six children and loved every one.” Her mother went to meet the nun who taught piano to explain there would be no lessons. God had other plans. Lessons soon began and the youngster was invited to practice at the Sisters’ home. Clarinet was added in fifth grade; organ in seventh. Organ stuck for good.

Sister Raymunda remembers fondly growing up in Evansville, Indiana, where she attended Catholic school. She and her older sister had perfect attendance through grade school and high school. She credits drinking milk for her good health and for fueling the mile-long walk to school. “I didn’t drink coffee until I got here, to Sacred Heart Home!” she laughed.

She said her call to religious life came through her music teacher, whose lessons included long chats afterwards. “It was through those talks. I was a junior in high school when I asked my mother what I would have to do to be a Sister. She told me that she didn’t know but that we could find out.” Two months shy of her eighteenth birthday, she moved exactly 100 miles from her childhood home to the Ursuline Motherhouse in Louisville.

She earned her undergraduate degree from Ursuline College, Louisville; a Master of Arts in special education from Cardinal Stritch College, Milwaukee; and took graduate courses at Catherine Spalding College (now Spalding University).

“I loved all kinds of teaching. I shook with nerves while awaiting each assignment, not knowing where I would be next, but I accepted with joy every one of them.” Her teaching career began at St. George in Louisville. Over the course of 30 years, she found herself in music rooms across Louisville as well as in Madison and Evansville, Indiana. Special education still holds a dear spot in her heart. “With special education, you can be freer. We had almost as many groups as we had children because it was very individualized.”

“This one girl was so cute. Patricia could make you laugh and smile for nothing. She was never absent. One day she came in late, stood in the doorway of the classroom with arms outstretched, and called out, ‘I’m here!’ I will never forget it,” she sat back and laughed.

After retirement came substitute teaching, plus work in the Angela Merici Center for Spirituality and the campus mail room. Her organ music prevailed at the Motherhouse Chapel and continued after her move to Sacred Heart Home. There, spread across her bed, is a quilt covered with signatures of people who love her.

“My older sister, Clara, made that quilt to celebrate my 60th Jubilee. I can hardly believe that it is 70 years now. I have been happy all these years.” Life has slowed down. Sister Raymunda still plays music, cards and likes to read, but prayer is front and center. “I have tried to be a good religious person. My prayers are mostly for the poor souls because that’s my birthday. I can’t say a prayer without saying it for the poor souls. I love my vocation.”

Sister Mary Lee Hansen
60 years -- 1957
Current Ministry: Prayer and presence at Sacred Heart Home

Previous Ministries: Teacher at Our Mother of Sorrows, St. Raphael, Our Lady of Lourdes, Sacred Heart Model School (Louisville, KY), Blessed Sacrament (Omaha, NE), Cardinal Newman High School (Columbia, SC), Ursuline Academy (Pittsburgh, PA). Director of Communication and secretary for Ursuline Montessori School and Ursuline Administration Offices. Mail Room, Marian Home, Ursuline Motherhouse, Sacred Heart Village (Louisville). Artwork for various causes.

Sister Mary Lee Hansen is an artist who admires God’s handiwork in nature. In her room at Sacred Heart Home an electric candle flickers at the foot of the Blessed Virgin, watercolor brushes stand at attention on her desk, and violets sun themselves on the windowsill.

Sister Mary Lee grew up with one brother outside the Omaha, Nebraska, city limits. Too far from the Catholic elementary school, she began her education in public schools, including a one-room schoolhouse. In fifth grade she took the bus to Holy Cross; then, she was off to a public high school.

“I’m glad for the experience of both parochial and public schools,” she said. “It helped me understand the systems that our children are in.”

Her close-knit family lost her father when she was young. Then just after graduating from high school, she was diagnosed with polio. “I don’t see any of these things that have happened to me as something to mourn or to ask why God did that to me. That was not part of the way I thought. You look at God and look at what HE had to go through, and the Blessed Mother what SHE had to go through.” “Polio put me back a little bit,” she said. But it did not stop her.

“Sociology was a new field at the time and Creighton University was offering it. When I got well enough, I went to Creighton and the Jesuits were WONDERFUL.” They offered her a modified class schedule as she continued to recover, and she worked to pay her way through college. During her junior year, a priest told her it was time to enter the convent. She was 23.

“Being older and having worked was definitely an advantage for me. Those were good maturing years and I could look back and say I hadn’t MISSED anything because I had dated, I had gone to college,” she smiled. Sister Mary Lee travelled to Louisville to join the Ursulines. “The Ursulines were a combination of contemplative love and service of neighbor, which I see as extremely important in answering the call.”

“Having had polio actually helped my ministry, because you know the struggle that others are going through. It makes you slow down and take a look at the people who seemingly just can’t keep up.”Post-polio issues eventually forced her to give up something she loved. “I was only able to teach for a short while. After my second knee surgery, the doctor told me I could not teach anymore. That was difficult.”

“A friend told me that when the Lord closes one door, He opens another. I looked at the door and all I could see was darkness. But it worked out,” she smiled. The door opened to a new ministry: working for the Ursuline Leadership for more than 30 years. She found support to pursue things she enjoyed, like calligraphy, drawing, watercolor, and photography. She still pens calligraphy by request, takes photographs, and paints.

“When I get finished, I look at it and say: ‘That must be how God feels. It may not be perfect, but it’s mine’. God wouldn’t do this but, once in a while, I do pitch something,” she laughed. “I am grateful to the Ursuline Community for these 60 years. Sometimes it was easy. Sometimes it was hard. But that is actually life,” said the artist. “I see all the sisters, and we’re like a mosaic. We all fit together. And when you look at the mosaic, you see the hand of God.”

Sister Dolores Hudson
60 years -- 1957
Current Ministry: Prayer and presence at the Ursuline Motherhouse

Previous Ministries: Teacher at St. Elizabeth, St. Helen (both of Louisville, KY), St. Peter (Columbia, SC), SS Peter & Paul (Cumberland, MD). Principal at St. Francis de Sales (Morgantown, WV), St. Vincent de Paul (Louisville, KY), St. John Neumann (Cumberland, MD). Coordinator of Retirement Success for Ursuline Sisters. Coordinator at Marian Home and Ursuline Motherhouse.

“We don’t retire. We are recycled!” Sister Dolores Hudson said with a laugh.

Sister Dolores was born in Cumberland, Maryland, the middle child with six brothers and two sisters. She was taught by Ursulines at St. Mary’s School. “I came from an average family. My father was a railroader and my mother never worked outside the home with nine of us kids. We had a good education and we always had good food on our table.”

“In high school I worked in the hospital in the dietary kitchen. I was there with the nuns and I had a lot of dealings with nurses. I really thought I would like to be a nurse but, in discerning, I thought I would rather be a nun. I thought God was calling me, so here I am.”

Sister Dolores majored in elementary education at Ursuline College. Her teaching career began in Louisville and eventually led her back home. “I was sent to Maryland, which I felt was lucky. While there, I earned my Master’s Degree.”

She taught first grade for 17 years and has funny stories to prove it. “One day little Danny said, ‘Hey, S’ter.’ He didn’t call me Sister, he called me S’ter. He said, ‘Do you think you’re training an army?’ I asked why. He said, ‘You say do this, do that. Get in line. Just like they do in the army!’ I said, ‘Well, I guess an army for Christ.’ He asked, ‘You can’t use guns, so what’s your ammunition?’ I said, ‘Prayers.’ He paused, then said, ‘Hmm. Pretty good.’ And that was the end of it.”

When assigned to be a principal, “I told Sister Assumpta that I couldn’t do it because I didn’t have the background.” Ever-obedient, she accepted, learned on-the-job, and earned another Master’s Degree. “Being a principal is not easy. One of the best things you have to do is give a lot of credit to your teachers and let them do their job without interfering. I had a great faculty and staff in all three schools.”

While in Morgantown, Sister Dolores marked her 25th Jubilee. Parents there gifted her with a trip to Rome. Her eight siblings pooled their money and bought a ticket for their mother to go along. “It was a trip of a lifetime,” she smiled.

Eventually she requested a move to the inner city of Louisville. “Those students at St. Vincent de Paul were so loving and I felt very close to them.” Sister arranged field trips for the children: a picnic at Hogan’s Fountain, a tour of a horse farm, and a visit to the state capitol.

Sister believes it was divine intervention that sent her back to Cumberland. “The first nine years I was there, my father died,” she explained. “When I returned, my mother died. I think it was part of God’s plan.”

Sister also had a plan: boost enrollment. Parents were quick to donate. “It was only a K-5 school but we added three bell choirs. It really sold the school. We went from 233 to 333 children.” A similar success story followed her idea to add a computer lab.

Eventually she left the principal’s office but she never retired. “I really enjoyed going to Open Hand Kitchen (in Louisville) because that’s a meditation in itself, the homeless people coming in to eat. How blessed we have been, both in my home and in my community.”

“My parents would be very happy about this Jubilee,” she smiled. “If they were here, I would thank them for the religious education they gave me and for their example of living a good, Catholic life.”

Sister Jo Ann Jansing
60 years -- 1957
Current Ministry: Ursuline Leadership

Previous Ministries: Teacher at St. Ann and Angela Merici High School (both Louisville, KY). Professor at Mount St. Agnes College (Baltimore, MD). Professor at Indiana University Southeast (New Albany, IN). Ursuline Leadership. Volunteer at Nativity Academy and at Shively Area Ministries (Louisville).

Her Ursuline Leadership office is at Brescia Hall, where she is called Sister Jo Ann. Former students still address her as Dr. Jansing. She answers to both. Born the only girl of four children, she grew up as ‘Daddy’s girl.’ “When I was a kid, they had a holy hour every Thursday at St. George Church,” Sister Jo Ann smiled. “I just wanted to go to that holy hour with my dad.”

Taught by Ursulines, she had two cousins who were priests and three aunts who were nuns. She felt an expectation to follow suit. “In high school I started resisting it, wanting to do what everybody else was doing. Then I went to a Catholic Student Mission Crusade. I can’t even tell you what the man said but one of the speakers really hit my heart. I knew that I would never forgive myself if I didn’t try.”

Her decision thrilled her father but made her mother cry. “She asked if I was joining the convent because she was not Catholic. I said, ‘NO, Mom.’ From then on, she never said anything to discourage me. She wanted me to be happy.” Soon after Jo Ann entered the convent her mother became a Catholic.

Earning her undergraduate degree took nine years, as it was done through classes on Saturday while she taught through the week. Her focus was chemistry, inspired by a young nun at Ursuline Academy in Louisville. “I loved it because Sister Assumpta taught it!”

After several years of teaching, Sister Jo Ann was asked to pursue a doctorate to teach physical chemistry at Ursuline College. When cooperative talks between Ursuline College and Bellarmine meant the merged college needed analytical chemistry, she switched her major at Fordham University.

“Living in New York City made me look upon people differently. I would come home and my dad would see a kid with long hair and call him a hippie. I didn’t see that anymore because I saw LOADS of different kinds of people that didn’t look like me. It was a broadening experience to be there in the midst of that diversity.”

As graduation approached, Bellarmine had no job opening. The community told her to find one.
She spent one year at Mount St. Agnes College in Baltimore before moving to a rather new Indiana University Southeast campus just across the river from Louisville. “Indiana University Southeast (IUS) was hard for me at first, as I never thought I would not teach at a Catholic institution. It was two to three years before it dawned on me that ministry didn’t have to be in the Church, that my relationship with my students was a ministry. When (students) came into my office in the fall, they would say, ‘Can I ask you a question? Are you really a nun?’” She laughed. “I can’t tell you how many heart-to-heart conversations we shared in my office. It was clear to me that I was where I was supposed to be.”

Still, doubt crept in. “There was a time when I wondered whether I was going to leave the community. So I made a retreat by myself for a week. I went to St. Michael’s Cemetery and I started out at Sister Salesia’s [foundress of the Ursulines of Louisville] grave. I walked from one grave to the next and I said their name and ‘pray for me.’ Every single grave of our community! When I finished, I stood in the middle of that cemetery and I sobbed because I knew that this was where I belonged, this was for real, this was for life.”

She taught for 36 years, 31 of them at Indiana University Southeast where she was head of the chemistry department and later chair of the natural sciences. Now, she marks 60 years of religious life. “The biggest part of it is community and sisterhood. God has shown me where I belong.”
Sister Barbara Bir
50 years -- 1967
Current Ministry: Tutor for Doors to Hope. Spiritual Director. Retreat Director. Board Member at Pitt Academy.

Previous Ministries: Teacher at St. Elizabeth and St. Jerome (Louisville). Teacher/Assistant Principal at St. Francis de Sales (Morgantown, WV). Principal at Our Mother of Sorrows and St. Martha, Personnel Services for Schools of the Archdiocese, Assistant Director & Education Director at Community Catholic Center and Formation Director for Ursuline Sisters (all in Louisville).

The Bir Family - There were six girls, each had a boy nickname. Not until she started school did the second-born recognize her name in writing. It was there on her desk: Barbara. She was quiet and shy, and took refuge in reading. She acted as caretaker of her older sister who was deaf. When her mother got sick, she cared for the younger girls, too. “We walked to story hour at the library, me with my four younger sisters in tow. Sometimes we stopped to get penny candy on the way home.”

There were happy summers spent in the park, and painful days in overcrowded classrooms.
“My first grade teacher shamed me in front of the class,” she said. “I resolved then to never shame my sisters or my cousins that I babysat.”

In seventh grade, Barbara was invited to help in the sacristy at St. James Church. “We went to Latin mass daily. We didn’t understand anything, so I read my missal which had prayers and stories about the saints. I would feel really close to God there. I think that was the beginning of my vocation.”

“I came to the Motherhouse, all of 17, just out of high school. I graduated cum laude from Bellarmine-Ursuline College. My way of discerning where I was going to teach was to accept the first invitation extended by a Sister,” she laughed. Sister Alberta called and asked her to teach fourth grade at St. Elizabeth. “I just LOVED it. It was so much work but I loved teaching.” One year, she had five students who could not read a word come into fourth grade. She devised differentiated lessons. No one would be shamed in her classroom.

The shy girl of her childhood gave way to a teacher known over the years as Sister Barbara Anne, Sister Barbara, Sister B, and Sister Mom. “Some sisters were really encouraging me to be a principal. I decided to go to Morgantown to be assistant principal. I had this rapport with the kids and I learned a lot about myself.”

Before she felt ready, she was named principal at Our Mother of Sorrows in Louisville and was told to close the school. “I’m not closing it,” I said, “I kept it open and, little by little, it grew. My years there were sometimes tough and a blessing.”

Then she made a change. She worked as personnel director for the Archdiocese of Louisville Schools. She studied to be a spiritual director. Later she was Formation Director for the Ursuline Sisters and a spiritual director before spending ten years at Community Catholic Center in West Louisville.

“My goal was to educate the parents and get a Catholic education for the children because the culture (there) was drop out of school, girls get pregnant, boys join a gang. I learned about poverty and the hopelessness it brings.”

She started family meetings and worked with donors to help fund students’ Catholic education.
“We’ve had children graduate from Catholic and public high schools,” she said with a smile. “Not long ago, one of the boys I had there came up to me and said, ‘Sister Barbara, I haven’t seen you in ages’ and gave me a bear hug. I just loved those kids and they knew it. The ultimate is seeing these young people have a new lease on life.”

Multiple spinal surgeries now limit Sr. Barbara’s activities, but not her appreciation for those around her. “I am so blessed to have been in community. I’ve grown closer to God in this community. Sharing the love of Jesus is what it is all about.”
Sister Lynn Jarrell
50 years -- 1967
Current Ministry: Canonical Consultant

Previous Ministries: Teacher at Sacred Heart Academy (Louisville, KY), Gymnasium der Ursulinen (Straubing, Germany), SS. Peter and Paul, Bishop Walsh High School (both of Cumberland, MD). Diocesan Tribunal (Evansville, IN). Kendrick Seminary/Aquinas Institute of Theology (St. Louis, MO).Vice-President, Ursuline Sisters of Louisville. President, Canon Law Society of America. San Francisco Tribunal/Consultant and Teacher in Canon Law. St. Patrick Seminary, Menlo Park/Jesuit School of Theology (Berkley, CA). Resource Center for Religious Institute (Washington, D.C.). President, Ursuline Sisters of Louisville. Working with Religious Congregations.

“Consecrated Life is a BEAUTIFUL way of life. In one sense it doesn’t make any sense at all. You can’t explain it, but it’s a beautiful way of life if you are called to it.”

Sister Lynn Jarrell said her call came in the fourth grade. She entered the convent two months after graduating from high school and could hardly wait to stand at the front of the classroom. “It’s always what I wanted to do, teach,” she said with a smile. “I went to Ursuline and Bellarmine. It was great from the moment go.”

She was named “Star Teacher” at Sacred Heart Academy, where she was also speech and debate coach and even swim coach. “I knew high school was my calling. I loved the students. Speech and debate developed self-confidence, teamwork, critical thinking. Mostly, teaching was just supporting them in their life journey. That’s why it is such a privilege to teach.”

After teaching five years at Sacred Heart, she eagerly accepted an invitation extended by the Ursuline Sisters in Straubing, Germany. “I had to leave Sacred Heart, which was hard, but I am grateful that I was able to live there [in Straubing] with our founding community for a year. I taught English as a foreign language, and I worked with the basketball team. I lived their life totally, even speaking German. I am still very connected with those Sisters and have great respect for them.”

Upon her return home, she was sent to teach in Cumberland, Maryland. “That was a real gift. I got immersed in that experience, especially the parish life and the local community, and I treasure that greatly. I enjoyed being in and out of Washington, D.C., too.”

Then, Sister Lynn was asked by the community to further her own studies beyond her Masters Degree in Communications with pursuing a Doctorate in Canon Law at the Catholic University of America.
“It meant I left the classroom, which was a bit sad, and that I would most likely live some distance from Louisville for much of my professional life because of the nature of a canon law degree. Those were big decisions, especially at my age at that time.”

Since completing her doctorate in 1984, Sister Lynn has continued to serve religious institutes and other individuals as a canonical consultant on a wide-range of topics and concerns. “I have about 10 to 12 active cases right now with a few of them involving issues at the Vatican, waiting for answers. I have done work with religious in parts of Europe, Africa, South America, Canada and the USA. Plus I have worked in the national office of the Resource Center for Religious. All of it has given me a broad perspective for the various conversations which arise. I have friends in different parts of the world.”

She is increasingly immersed in helping religious institutes plan for their future in light of some difficult realities. She sees the impending decline in the number of religious institutes as part of the cycle of creation and of the human condition in which nothing is permanent.

“The great news, this is absolutely positive to me, is that the decline in the number of religious institutes will open the door for some other movement of grace and gifts in the Church or in the world. I believe this is the way God’s grace works.”

It is with grace that she summed up her 50 years of consecrated life. “Deep gratitude is what I most feel as I celebrate this year. How richly blessed I have been all these years, with companions in our common faith journey and in my development as a person, living community in a simple lifestyle and available in service in whatever way I can.”

Sister Shannon Maguire
50 years -- 1967
Current Ministry: Assistant to Finance Director, Ursuline Sisters of Louisville

Previous Ministries: Teacher Ursuline Academy (Pittsburgh), Angela Merici High School (Louisville), and St. Francis de Sales High School (Morgantown, WV); teacher, assistant principal /dean of students at Sacred Heart Academy (Louisville). Ministry to elderly parents. House Councilor and Co-Coordinator at the Ursuline Motherhouse.

The gold wedding band she wears on her left hand was her grandmother’s. It symbolizes a 130-year connection to the Ursuline Sisters. “My grandparents met at an Ursuline boarding school (a different branch of Ursulines) in the early 1890s,” explained Sister Shannon Maguire.

“My grandmother was the daughter of Quakers. Because they valued education, they sent her from Wyoming to York, Nebraska, to be educated by the Ursulines beginning in fourth grade. She remained there until she graduated from high school.” Later, Sister Shannon’s mother and aunt briefly attended the same Ursuline boarding school.

In the late 40s, the Maguire family moved to Blessed Sacrament Parish in Omaha and met the Ursulines from Louisville. All five Maguire children attended Blessed Sacrament Grade School. “My grade school teachers influenced me greatly. As I celebrate my 50th, it’s amazing that four of those teachers are still alive—Sisters Isabel, Bernadine, Shirley Ann, and Georgine. Sister Andrea Callahan, who passed away two years ago, was my eighth grade teacher and was most influential in my life.”

Sister Shannon thought a bit about the convent in high school. After spending two years in college, she decided it was time to take a closer look. “There it was, August of 1966; I entered the community having never been to Louisville. There wasn’t a need to come and check it out. I had seen the dedication and kindness of the Ursuline Sisters.” A treasured photograph shows Sister Shannon in her white veil on investment day. Sister Andrea is at her side, wearing a broad smile.

“Years later, when my mother needed a nursing home – I had been caring for my parents and my father had already passed away – I was fortunate to bring my mother to Marian Home. She joined Sister Pat Lowman’s Marian bridge group. Sister Pat had taught my older sibs at Blessed Sacrament. That is full circle!”

Sister Shannon recalled with fondness her varied ministries, especially as a teacher who sometimes also wore the hat of Dean of Students. “I had one student request that I give her a wake-up each morning because she had so many tardies and didn’t like reporting to detention. I called her regularly at 6:45 a.m.”

“I remember the first Earth Day in April of 1970. A group of Ursulines and SHA students joined the march through the city. We stopped at our different convents for water breaks.”

“I have seen former students in many places, from Colorado to Florida. It is evident that they are living the Ursuline core values.”

There were many years when she was co-coordinator at the Motherhouse. “I remember the renovation of the west and middle wings at the motherhouse, done in phases. Every three months a group of 15 sisters had to be re-located. Janet Sauer and I got so adept at helping sisters move that we were later dubbed ‘Two Ladies and a Van’ as we were asked to move sisters to or from different convents.”

“You never knew what to expect at birthday parties at the Motherhouse. We once had Wheel of Fortune with Sister Isabel as Vanna.”

Today, Sister Shannon ministers in the Finance Office of the Ursuline Sisters. The Charism of Angela Merici – a contemplative love of God resulting in an eagerness to serve others -- has been a constant. “I have been blessed to have made two pilgrimages to Italy, where Angela Merici had been. We know she was a woman of compassion, inner strength, peace, a pilgrim woman, a reconciler. Just to walk in her footsteps there, it was quite an experience.”
Sister Katherine Corbett
10 years-2007
Current Ministry: Healthcare director of the Ursuline Sisters, residing at the Motherhouse and at off-site locations, assessing and overseeing the healthcare needs of the sisters.

Previous Ministries: Registered nurse in the following capacities: hospital nursing; working with fragile children with the Department of Social Services; home health care nursing; and long-term care at the former Marian Home, a nursing facility run by the Ursuline Sisters.

Sister Katherine states, “Ten years since I first started on this journey of religious life, and of fully living the charism of St. Angela, it now amazes me when I look back at all the challenges and blessings involved in it. Going on daily with the experiences and responsibilities of that journey, I hardly had time to reflect on what was happening. Now, as I look back, I feel very blessed and honored to be walking with my older Sisters as they face health challenges, and to be in a calling in which I am there to help them with those challenges. The challenge is also mine in the need always to be learning more: professionally as a nurse, personally with the other Sisters, and spiritually with God, knowing that all three of these are woven together in my calling.”

Today, Sr. Katherine plays the vital role of nurse and healthcare director at the Ursuline Motherhouse and is also available for emergencies that might arise with sisters who reside elsewhere.

Sister Mary Teresa Burns
25 years —1990
Current Ministry: Chaplain

Previous Ministries: Caregiver, prayer and presence at the Carmelite Monastery of Mary Immaculate and St. Joseph (Louisville, KY).

Sister draws inspiration from the life of Saint Theresa of Lisieux, as well as from the Ursuline sisters and all of their contributions to the community.

“I know a lot of Catholic girls go through a phase where they want to be a nun but mine never wore off,” laughs Sr. Mary Teresa Burns. One of five girls, Sr. Mary Teresa was born in Germany. Her father, a convert, was a career army sergeant. Her mother faithfully followed him from one military base to the next, and eventually they landed back in her hometown of Louisville where Sr. Mary Teresa completed grade school at St. Francis of Assisi, before attending Assumption High School and enrolling at Bellarmine University.

“When I was 29, I had a conversion experience during Holy Week at St. Martin of Tours Church. It clarified for me that I actually wanted to devote my life to serving God.” Because her parents lived near the Ursuline Campus, her mother had hoped she would join the Ursuline Sisters and be able to walk home occasionally. Instead a book about Saint Theresa of Lisieux, gifted to her during childhood, led her to the Carmelite tradition. She joined the Monastery of Mary Immaculate and St. Joseph, for the first time, in October 1990.

“I left after four months because I couldn’t handle how unhappy it made my mother,” she recalled. “As soon as I went home, I thought it was a mistake. It took me about a year to go back. I returned in 1992 and after that, I was happier than I had ever been in my entire life. I could not explain that to others because they didn’t have my vocation.”

For 24 years, she lived a cloistered life on Newburg Road in Louisville. “People talk about religious life being a sacrifice: How much we give up. I was happy. I was doing what I wanted to do. The sacrifices were all being made by my family who could only see me once a month, who didn’t have me at home for Christmas and Thanksgiving, who didn’t have me at home for baptisms, weddings and funerals. So, as far as I could see, THEY were the ones making the sacrifice. For me, it was easy.”

For Sr. Mary Teresa, the painful loss of cloistered life has unveiled an unexpected journey to become a chaplain. “I NEVER would have thought of being a chaplain until I was introduced to it through the Ursulines,” she explained with a smile. “I am seeing the contribution these fabulous women have made to the Archdiocese. It has made me feel more enriched as a woman, more involved, and more appreciative of what women can offer, what ministries we can undertake. I was just so charmed by the way the Ursuline Sisters welcomed us, included us in everything and how good they have been to us. If I had had expectations, they would have been exceeded.”

As she anticipates her 25th year of religious life in October, Sr. Mary Teresa has a message for the Ursuline Sisters of Louisville: “Thank you! Thank you!”

Sister Carol Curtis
25 years —1990
Current Ministry: Outreach; Shively Area Ministries, St. John’s Center

Previous Ministries: Prioress; care-giving, gardening at the Carmelite Monastery of Mary Immaculate and St. Joseph (Louisville).

Born in Illinois and raised in a faith-filled Protestant family, Sr. Carol entered the Catholic Church at age 20 while in Taiwan as a Dartmouth University student. After serving in the Peace Corps in Africa, she worked to pay off student loans then entered the monastery on her 26th birthday.

“It is a life where you pray together; a very close life because it’s cloistered,” she explained. “For 25 years it was my life: working in the garden, working in the house, and a great deal of care-giving which is a beautiful experience.”

With a dwindling and aging population, the Carmelite Monastery in Louisville closed its doors in August 2015. As prioress, Sr. Carol led the way for each of the eight Carmelites to find a new home. Three of them, including Sr. Carol and Sr. Mary Teresa, settled into the Ursuline Motherhouse on Lexington Road. Now, both Sr. Carol and Sr. Mary Teresa are in the midst of a three-year transition to become Ursuline Sisters.

“Because of the coincidence of my 25th anniversary coming right at the time of the move, there was a sense of this being a special time from God of reconsecrating in a different way,” Sr. Carol explained. Exposure to the Angela Merici Center for Spirituality and the shared contemplative ministries of the Ursulines prompted Sr. Carol to consider her vocation as evolving—not as repudiating of what was there before, but as a new ministry unfolding.

“There is a lot of common ground,” said Sr. Carol. “It’s not just common ground between religious Sisters, but basically we are all in this together and God is with us all. Participating in the Angela Merici Center was the first part of it. And exploring the active social justice ministries has been important to me in reaching out to the poor.” She has worked with Shively Area Ministries and at the St. John’s Center for Homeless Men.

To see additional photos of our Jubilarians, please click here.